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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Learn Math. It Pays

Monday, August 8, 2011

Learn Math. It Pays

Its pays to know math (“'Lucky' woman who won lottery four times outed as Stanford University statistics PhD”). 

Joan R. Ginther, 63, from Texas, won multiple million dollar payouts each time.

First, she won $5.4 million, then a decade later, she won $2 million, then two years later $3 million and finally, in the spring of 2008, she hit a $10 million jackpot.

The odds of this has been calculated at one in eighteen septillion and luck like this could only come once every quadrillion years.

Harper's reporter Nathanial Rich recently wrote an article about Ms Ginther, which questioned the validity of this 'luck' with which she attributes her multiple lottery wins to.

First, he points out, Ms Ginther is a former math professor with a PhD from Stanford University specialising in statistics.

I suspect that Rich is correct.  I suspect that hard work had more to do with her lottery winnings than luck. 


  1. This story is truly a reflection of the Obama administration's view on fiscal stimulus.

    While we gaze longingly at her winnings, we get no indication of what she spent in tickets and effort to win these jackpots. What if she bought every number possible each time?

    Obama wants to give away tax dollars to everyone under the sun...but he sure doesn't want to discuss how much it costs or where the money will come from (other than taxes on corporate jet owners).

    I'm not so sure I want to win the $10 million lottery if it costs me $16 million...and I have to borrow the $6 million delta from China...

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  3. (On reflection, I would like to make it clear that my criticism is of the Harper's story, not Brooks Wilson's telling of it...)

  4. Who knew math could get you so far! In response to Texan in Wisconsin, I seriously doubt she spent more than $20 million on lottery tickets. I think it is safe to say she made a profit.

  5. Brittney Eskew

    I am going to have to agree that luck didn't have much to do with Joan Ginthers wins. I also think that if she was smart enough to figure it out then good for her. In the future to prevent this from happening the lottery should change up their routine every so often.

  6. Clearly luck isn't the key contribution to her winnings, but I'm sure it helped. Using her PhD in statistics, she could calculate an educated guess to the winning lottery numbers. Though if this one is able to do this, why penalize her? Congratulations on understanding a strategy to help win and end of story. Most people buy lottery tickets every week since the moment they turn 18 and never win a single penny, essentially paying more money to the Lottery than could be returned with a single 3 million dollar win. This woman can enter and win four times. Eliminating the "in the red numbers" she would have racked up from purchasing these tickets. My only wish is that she was my grandma and felt like sharing!